Ireland humbled in first ODI
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
Paul Stirling may achieve many things in his cricketing career but the most memorable may be that he was the first victim of Mujeeb Zadran.
All the talk before Ireland’s three-match one-day series in Sharjah was how would they cope with teenage spin sensation Rashid Khan. Well, as of yesterday, he has an even younger rival for that title, a 16-year-old who announced his arrival on the international scene with four wickets in his first seven overs to reduce Ireland to 46 for six and staring at their lowest ever total in a one-day international.
With Afghanistan having already posted 238 for nine, the game was over as a contest even before Rashid came on to bowl but the 19-year-old still had the final say, taking Ireland’s last two wickets to wrap up what the stadium announcer described as a “comprehensive victory”.
In truth, it was an unfair contest because, even in these days when there is footage available of every international, Ireland went in blind against Mujeeb because he had been called into the squad on the back of his performances in the Asia Under-19 Cup when he took 20 wickets at an average of 5.5!
So against a batting line-up which has never been the greatest at playing quality spin bowling, Stirling was trapped in front to the seventh ball he faced from Mujeeb, Andrew Balbirnie lasted just five, Gary Wilson was bowled behind his legs to his third and Kevin O’Brien managed seven balls before he was out sweeping.
Meanwhile Dawlat Zadran, their only serious pace bowler, had started with three successive maidens and then nipped out Niall O’Brien, caught at mid-wicket leaving skipper William Porterfield to try and explain what went wrong.
“We knew the young lad was in the squad and he was a very good bowler but going forward we have now have 60 balls of footage and it’s up to us to deal with him better on Thursday and come back stronger. We will have to come up with a game plan to play him and he proved he was pretty effective with the new ball.”
Porterfield also admitted he was unsure what to do when he won the toss and elected to bowl first but after a look at the pitch decided that it wouldn’t spin as much as anticipated and left out Jacob Mulder in favour of playing Stuart Poynter as the extra batsmen.
Peter Chase lost his place to Niall O’Brien with Kevin O’Brien - who became the first Ireland bowler to take 100 ODI wickets when he dismissed Rashid with the last ball of the innings - used as the third seamer and Stirling was the third spinner.
Porterfield’s reasoning proved sound because Ireland’s slow bowlers sent down 20 overs and finished with 0-110 although Boyd Rankin, who finished with best ODI figures and Tim Murtagh, with an economical three – his last ball actually went for six – did all they could to keep the Afghan total in check.
When Ireland's experienced opening pair returned to reduce their newest Full Member rivals from 127 for two to 132 for six, Ireland were on top but, as happened so often in India last March the Afghan tail wagged emphatically and three sixes ensured that 50 came off the last five overs.